From Sotheby's to London's No. 1 Dog Walker, Kate MacDougall on The Second Chapter
Kristin, The Second Chapter :Today I’m talking to Kate MacDougall. Kate’s career has taken her from acting (too tall) to Sotheby’s (too clumsy) to dogs (too many human owners!). Now, Kate writes for magazines on her several specialist subjects and her first book was released in April…
Kristin : Hi, Kate, how are you doing today?
Kate: I'm really good. How are you?
Kristin : I'm well thank you so much for being here. It's been a long time coming.
Kate: It has,
Kristin : Yeah. Through busy schedules. We've been trying to schedule
Kate: I know
Kristin : off and on for so long. So I'm really excited to talk to you.
Kate: too. Me too.
Kristin : So you've had a very different journey than I feel like everybody I talked to has had their own journey, but yours has been a different one again, to many people I've talked to.
You started out with your degree in, was it art history?
Kate: Yes. Yes, it was. Yeah. It was a master's degree in art history.
Kristin : So you had a master's in art history. What did you study before that?
Kate: So before that it was a levels. So that would be, I did three subjects that was English, theater studies and art history. And then yeah, went on to, I had two years out actually between school and university and then went on to do a degree in history of art. And I went to a Scottish University, Edinburgh.
So that's four year degree.
Kristin : So somewhere in there you also were an actor in New York City. So where did that kind of sneak in?
Kate: So I always loved drama and acting, and I think that was what I thought I was going to do, for so many years, and I pursued it full on with full passion. And I did a lot of acting at school and then I had a year out between going from school to university and I, my mum was dating an American at the time, and I got to live in this apartment in New York that he had.
And I went to drama school in New York for a few months, which was just the most amazing experience. I was - still am - quite tall, so I went to an all girls school. So I was always being made to play the boys. I was always the boy parts. And it sounds so silly, but like the biggest thing for me was going to drama school and actually getting to play a girl.
Cause I never got to play the girl part.
It's so silly, isn't it? But it was such a big thing for me.
Kristin : No, I get it because even now, I am an actor as one of my, one of my things. But. I am with a female and nonbinary Shakespeare company, and I'm always playing man. And I do think, just physically, I am taller than almost every, almost every person that I act with.
So it just makes sense that, I would end up playing the man a lot of times as well, but it is funny because I finally I'm playing lady Capulet and what we're doing now. And I. Yeah. Part of it was because I was like, will I always be a man in these productions?
Kate: Yeah. I think it was also because being tall, I probably at times thought that I was less feminine than some of my friends who were petite and blonde. I remember my first ever school play when I was really young, it was the nativity, and I was a monk and I had to wear a brown sheet and everyone else was like a fairy or an angel.
And they were in white, pretty outfits with tinsel and I was playing a monk. And I think that really scarred me so that when I got to play girls on stage, I just, it was just so amazing to feel like I was I could play a romantic lead and be feminine. Yeah. So that was a real thrill.
Kristin : Not to mention I'm not particularly religious, but I don't remember monks being part of a nativity.
Kate: You have a no monks in the nativity scene ever. I think they just didn't know what to do with me. And they might've had a spare brown sheet, so they put it on me and said you can be that monk not realizing the psychological effect it might've had on a small child. But yeah, it didn't put me off acting.
So I went to drama school and I just loved it. It was amazing. And I was the proper kind of New York girl. I waited tables in a restaurant and just had a great time. Didn't want to come home to be honest. And I stretched that out for another year before then I came back and went to university.
Kristin : Okay. So then when you did end up in university, it wasn't for acting. It was for the art history. Was it right out of school that you ended up at Sotheby's?
Kate: Yeah, it was, I think I did a few sort of temping jobs. So I did some sort of secretarial work here and there and just found it all so boring and tedious. And I, for a long time, couldn't understand why. We spent so many years in all this education. And, you have to really start at the bottom in the, in the working world, you have to start from a position of just, the right at the bottom.
And I don't think anybody had really explained that to me, whatever job you want to do and whatever fields you're going into. If it's not something vocational like medicine or something like that, then you do have to go into these offices and work in these environments where you have to make tea and, file paper and answer the phone.
And you've got to do it with a smile on your face. And I think I found that quite hard. I think doing arts for so long and yeah. I think I had romantic idea about, what working life would be and it turned out to be quite different.
Kristin : Did you come from an artistic family?
Kate: No, not really. No, not really at all. My mum always said, Oh, you're a typical Pisces. That's why, not, I don't really read too much about star signs, but I think the part that my birth sign apparently is it's very creative. I was, I think I was a bit of a a bit of a black sheep in the family in terms of that.
My family is sort of, Quite traditional and, and farmers mostly. Coming from a sort of very countryside background, but very much practical and hands-on, but not creative really in that way. But yeah so going from the sort of temping work, I then got um, sort of entry level job at Sotheby's, which was really brilliant to start with because I was in a creative environment, surrounded by incredible art and amazing objects all the time.
And it was really fascinating for a while to learn how that all worked and how the art world worked. I was, it was on the cusp of change when I was there. So when I started, to when I left the company, it had downsized, massively, and instead of having two auction rooms in London, they moved to just having one.
So during the time I was there, it really down downsized. But it was a fascinating place to work for a long time, actually. And I met some brilliant people. It's something to be around a specialist who has spent their entire life studying, just one, one tiny element of the art world. So will just have an absolute in-depth knowledge about clocks or about silver tankers or, specific paintings from the 19th century.I find that passion really interesting to have a love for something that's so niche, it takes some doing.
Kristin : Yeah I agree with you because as someone who is so multi. For me I just have an interest in so many things. I can't imagine, like you said, silver tankards I know everything about silver tankards from, 1840 or something.
Kate: yeah. But just that's their whole life. And I think it's. You see some fascinating people there. I think if you are somebody who has a niche passion like that, then you know, there are some quite eccentric people that work in the art world. And that makes for an interesting place to work.
But unfortunately my role, there was much more administrative and I, after a while I did get a bit frustrated and bored with just doing the paperwork side of it, particularly when you're surrounded by so much beauty in arts and not actually being able to learn about it and get involved. I found frustrating.
Kristin : Especially coming in as a creative and then to, yeah, just be dealing with the paperwork.
Kate: I think for many people that was absolutely fine, but for me, I was just, I'm so desperate to learn and to be involved with things. And my role very much prevented me from doing that. I, my job was to just do the back office side of it. I knew, you know, after a certain point in time that I wasn't going to be able to stay there too long because I got quite bored.
Kristin : But from what I gather, I don't think it was boredom that actually was the impetus to finally leave. What happened?
Kate: I am a bit clumsy. I'd had a few incidents where I dropped things and broken things and Sotheby's, as I'm sure all the major auction houses do have very healthy insurance policies. So it's not a total disaster if you break something. But I did break these two ceramic pigeons and a pair of them.
And I just broke one after the other in quick succession. It wasn't totally awful. Cause they weren't, incredibly valuable, but I think it was the catalyst that made me think, I've really got to, I've really got to leave now.
It's not really my place here. And I'd broken a couple of other things over the years and I just thought, no, I can't I'll be here anymore. I really got to do something else.
Kristin : I mentioned that you've had a very different path than anyone I've ever met. So what happened between breaking ceramic pigeons at Sotheby's and, having that catalyst to leave and you starting your own business. How did you decide to start this business?
I'm being all mysterious about it. I'm sure I'm going to have this in the show notes, but.
Kate: Yeah. So I started a dog walking company. I honestly think it there wasn't there wasn't one single thing. There was a number of elements that came together. So the pigeons being one of them. But I do think I got to the point where I was so frustrated in my job, but I was really looking for really searching for something else to do.
And I knew that if I made a sideways move to another large organization, I'd probably have to go into another administrative role. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing administrative role, but I, I really wanted, I think my creative side of me was just desperate to launch itself and do something.
And I wasn't getting anywhere with the acting. I had an agent for a short while, but I've been repeatedly told I was too tall and I also
needed to pay my rent. I'm six foot. That's not great crazy tall, but it's, taller than a lot of leading men, which I'm sure you discovered as well.
It was around the same time that my friend is a theater director and he had, he was working at the Royal Shakespeare company, I think at the time. And he had a party at his flat in London. And I went along, all the casts that he was working with came and I just, all these men came in and they were all so small and I just thought, Oh my God, I don't know, maybe it's particularly that cast, but I just felt like a giant in the amongst all these guys and they were all lovely, but I just thought I can't do this as a job.
I was just, I'm too tall. And I remember a casting director saying to me, it's fine. It's just that getting you work will be 10 times harder than someone else, because you're only going to be able to work with actors that are taller within you. And that's gonna make you getting work really impossible.
The reality if you're living in a big city like London, you have to pay your rent. And if you can do temporary jobs, like I did do for a while, but at the end of the day, you have to have an income coming in.
And so it's not really realistic to just be waiting for acting jobs to come up, unless you have some sort of other income or you have some way you can stay rent free, which I didn't have. So getting a full-time job was really the only possibility for me. And I think starting my own business was really that creative side that had been inactive for a while, just, desperate to, to do something.
The dog walking thing was really, I met this guy in the park who was a dog walker. He only did it for actors actually. And he seemed to be making quite a lot of money out of it. And I thought I could do that. And then I thought I might do a company that was like a concierge type thing where I would help people out.
And I'd seen a lot of the sort of clients at Sotheby's, and this sort of huge wealth in London and the kind of opportunity to be somebody that can offer services to somebody in a kind of concierge type way I could go and pick up people's post or I could water their plants. And I, then I just had the idea for I just had the company name in my head for the dog walking company, and I immediately could picture the logo and how it would sound and look, and that was my creative side coming out I think. And so I drew these pictures and wrote this text for the website and the friend of mine from university, put it all together for me. And it was that sort of having the image and the visual for it that I think then sparked me to do it. And I was still in my job. So setting up a website and saying you have a company, it doesn't really mean anything because you don't really have to.
I wasn't really investing any money in it. It existed online all of a sudden one day. And then. You have a client call you and then that's when it becomes serious, then you think, hang on a minute. I've done this now. Somebody wants to hire me to walk their dog. Now I have to actually do it. So really it was really a bit of a project as it were like a side project, because I didn't quit my job for a couple of months after that.
And then I handed in my notice properly and went full sort of full throttle at it. But when it started I used other people to walk the dogs in the first, a few weeks and then made the
Kristin : So you were like... A big boss.
Kate: Yes, I was and then went back to being the big boss a few years down the line. But once I left my job properly and handed my notice in. I walked all the dogs myself then after that, which was yeah, hard.
Kristin : The things that I love that I've seen on your website that you say just that you knew very little about dogs, nothing about running a business that people, didn't think this was a good use of your university degree.
I think all of that's really interesting. I guess because you'd seen this guy walking dogs and thought, okay, he's making money and getting that idea, but. I think for me, it'd be just be like, man, I don't really know much about dogs. Maybe this isn't the thing for me.
Kate: Yeah. I honestly think that I write about this in the book. I honestly think that naivity and ignorance were the absolute best things I had going for me because I would never have done it otherwise. I know that sounds crazy. And I think if anybody was to ask me for advice about setting up a business, I would want to say to them, do as much research as you can.
I did do research in terms of the branding and how I wanted my company to look. But as I said, I didn't know anything about business and I wasn't prepared for, I had dogs growing up and I love dogs. And at that time I didn't have my own dog. And the idea of spending time with dogs was hugely appealing, but.
I wasn't prepared for the human element in it, the kind of the clients and the dog walkers I was going to have to manage. And just the massive complications that human beings add into the situation. If it was just the dogs. It's all right, but the humans will make it much more complicated.
The funny thing about it was that there weren't really any people doing dog walking. Now I think the time I spent in New York had made the idea of a dog walker seem quite normal to me. Dog walking has been a thing in, in, in New York for, since the sixties. So when I would tell people that I was doing dog walking, people would literally say, what is that?
Because it was such an, a new concept. They didn't understand what it was. And so explaining it to people like my mother, my friends, They literally thought I was crazy because it wasn't a job. It just wasn't a job. And dogs would literally be inside all day. And we're only talking about 2004 here, 2006. It was not a job, people just didn't walk dogs.
So I think people, did think I was bonkers. Completely bonkers. And they were probably right in some respects.
Kristin : it's funny. Cause I lived in New York for, I don't know, probably 10 years, a little over 10 years. And so I go back to visit, obviously just going to the States. It's nice to go to New York, but. Every time I go back, I think, Oh, that's such a good idea for a business because there's always something that's happening in New York, that's not happening in London yet. Or it's not happening anywhere yet because New York is just bonkers in and of itself.
But it's funny that you say that about the New York thing, because yeah, to me a dog-walker seems like, Oh, of course, I saw that all the time in New York or, now I see it all the time in London, but there really is always things happening there that I guess if you want a business idea, go spend some time in New York.
Bring it back to London.
Kate: Yeah. And I, and a lot of the things that, would, would come over here. So I remember thinking that I'm going to start doing dog birthday parties for my clients and people going, Oh my God, you gotta be crazy. And I think, because that does happen. That's that was a big thing in New York.
People gave, birthday parties for their dogs. I didn't end up at the end, but the amazing thing about having this idea, which as I said, people thought I was crazy for doing was that I immediately got loads of business because I think we were on this sort of cusp of becoming a little bit more aware that our dogs might actually need to go out during the day. And London was full of young 20, 30 year olds working hard and possibly not having children straight away. People climbing the career ladder and possibly having a dog before they had kids.
I suddenly had a huge amount of clients in a, quite a short space of time. And I think that looks on paper like it's massive success that I've done, but actually I did just find a bit of a niche in the market. I found a bit of a gap in the market. By luck.
Kristin : by luck,
Kristin : no, by good timing as well. Obviously you saw that there was this opportunity and I think it's interesting because you said about the human side of it w was more difficult than some of the animal, the dog part of it. For some reason, this is not fair, but I had in my head much older, like very high society kind of thing versus 20 and 30 year olds .
Where did you find this clientele and
what, what were they like?
Kate: At the start, I think it was the website looked quite cool and funky and different. And I think there were maybe one or two other people doing it at that time. And then we're talking about in a huge city London, obviously. So I think I got clients initially because I was one of the only people doing it.
And then I think there was a lot of word of mouth that happened. I did run some events as well, which attracted some some people I did a dog dating thing, which was hilarious. It attracted all kinds of very strange people who weren't necessarily looking for a dog walker, but it makes for a good story in the book.
So there were young working people, young couples and families, but there was a high society side to it as well. There was a lot of demanding people, a lot of people who just didn't walk their own dogs. So we had, I'd say the main type of client was someone who worked nine to five, who wasn't at home.
Who wanted someone to come in and let their dog out during the day. But then we did have clients that just didn't walk their own dogs and wanted someone else to do that for them. And they tended to be a little bit more high maintenance and tricky to do because they were used to having people do stuff for them.
And they were used to having things a certain way and dealing with dogs and people, it's not always predictable . So yeah, it was a very difficult, Client customer service side of it was difficult and exhausting at times.
Kristin : So this dog walking service led to enough stories that you've written a book about it but I know that wasn't the first thing. The book's been a long time coming.
So what was the transition in between.
Kate: So I think the creative side of the business was. It was the job satisfaction of, and I think whatever job you're doing, whether it's something creative or not, job satisfaction is so important to being able to feel that you've done something well, and you're proud of it. And you've made someone else happy or you've made their life easier in a sort of customer service role, particularly that was enormous at the beginning for me.
And the creative side of just the building of a brand and a company that really scratched that creative itch for me for a long while. But then after a while it didn't so much anymore. And I found the customer service side of it just draining. And I think I just had enough of doing it.
And I wanted to do something else. I was also getting married and having children so, on the one hand running your own business was great because it enabled me to work childcare around working. But I knew I wanted to do something different and I put a good 10 years into doing the business.
And that creative side was flaring up again. I wanted to do something to do with writing or drama or something to do with, my, my artistic side. So I began doing copywriting. The funny thing is I was writing the book alongside all of this, and I just didn't have the confidence to think that I could be a writer in a kind of creative way, a creative writer, like a novelist.
I started by doing copywriting because, and that was purely a confidence thing, I think. I thought I can write good copy. I can write work newsletters. I can write good emails. So I'll be able to do copywriting quite well. And I found it really easy. I think I've learned writing is a real it's a real skill to have, and I think I'm really lucky to have that, to be able to put words in a way that sound right to the ear and sentences and building a structured paragraph.
I know some people find that really difficult. I find it quite easy to put words together and sentences together and make something sound compelling. And even if you're talking about a product. So I think I, I did enjoy it for a while because I enjoyed writing something that sounded good, but copywriting, wasn't going to be ultimately the thing that made me feel fulfilled.
So yes, I moved into journalism after that.
Kristin : And as far as journalism, you definitely have some, some household names on the list. So you've done freelance journalism for
Kate: Yes. So two or three years now, I think. And that was a big leap. That was a big step forward. From believing that I could go from copywriting to journalism was entirely a kind of, I really had to give myself a talking to and say come on, this is what you want to do. I think these things feel unachievable really.
It's a lot of these sort of businesses like professions like journalism and writing books. Feel out of reach a lot of the time, I think, or it's somebody else does that job. And it feels like it's impossible to get into these fields. And I think it is, in many respects. I literally just started writing to editors of magazines and saying, I know a lot's about dogs and, can I send you some ideas? And one or two replied, not everybody, but I think having a sort of niche area of knowledge really helped. People like it if you say, I know lots about this subject Saying I'm a writer I think is probably harder to break in.
I think if you have a kind of area that you know something about, then that's easier to break into something like feature writing for magazines.
Kristin : You mentioned the confidence thing, but it's not just a confidence in your own ability. It's the actual confidence to look up all these email addresses. Write to somebody and say something that makes you sound... I don't know confident enough to actually do the articles, because I know, as far as approaching people for things, you really have to believe in yourself. It's really hard. So what kind of changed in you that made you feel confident enough to do it?
Kate: I think I don't feel that confident as a person, a lot of the time, but I knew I could do the writing. I think that was what it was. I knew I had this skill that I could write well, and I could write as well as the magazine articles that I was reading. And I think it was that sort of Knowledge that I could do it.
In a very sort of a skill, like any skill people would have. It wasn't that I believed I was the world's best writer. I saw it purely as a skill. And knowing that I had a lot of knowledge about a certain subject, I thought, why not me? And again, similarly with setting up the business, I think the motivation really to take that step forward for me always comes from a sort of frustration that I'm not doing it. And that propels me to write that email and to take that next step. It does come down to a kind of a need to do it. I need to prove to myself and to, I don't know if I'm proving to anyone else, but It is a kind of deep seated need to do it that pushes me forward, I think. And that was the same with the book, actually finishing the book and sending the book out again, came from a frustration that it, I just needed to make it happen. I I don't know. I think it is that sort of it's that creative side of me that needs to come out.
And it's always the thing that kind of pushes me forward to taking the next step. I don't feel confident about loads stuff, but I think if I dwell on stuff too long and I procrastinate, I feel so annoyed with myself that I have to try and do it.
Kristin : You're speaking a very familiar language.
Kate: I think it's quite hard to analyze your own behavior sometimes because sometimes we don't know why we do the things we do, but There's always been a period of frustration for me before I, I take a leap of faith.
Kristin : I love the idea of thinking of it as a skill too. As far as the writing thing goes, because I think far too often, in a creative role, especially you think, Oh, I have to have this talent and it has to be, the muse or there's something along those lines. And just like any other profession, why can't something that's more, quote unquote creative. Why can't we look at it as a skill and yeah, my skill is that I'm good at putting words on paper, as opposed to, these stories come to me, a
lot of good writers. They say they sit down at their desk every day, whether they feel inspired, whether they... it's a job.
So I'm really inspired by that.
Kate: Yeah. I really think that it is, you read advice from writers they do often say, you have to write, you just have to write and you have to read as well. But I think, and I said this to my husband the other day, I think, years of practice of writing essays at school and at university, and then even down to writing complicated, tricky emails to clients, and I was running the business. I think being able to structure an argument, if you're writing an essay about Van Gogh or you're responding to a difficult email there's this, it's a learned skill to put those words in a way that sell your arguments and.
That's about choice of words, obviously, but also about the way that you structure it. And so really it is practice. So when I write feature articles now, I do think they're very similar in structure to the way I used to write essays at school when I was 17, it's an introduction, it's a middle and it's an end and you want it to link together and.
Yeah. It's almost exactly the same. Just keep doing it. And then it does become a skill that you have.
Kristin : But the more creative side of that skill is that you brought it into this book, which is London's No.1 Dog Walking Agency. Say that five times fast. Say that five times fast is not part of the title. London's number one dog walking agency. And it's just come out in the UK. And it's coming out in the States in July, right?
Kate: Yes, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. It's it's been an amazing experience. It's I think quite a surreal experience. A lot of it happened over lockdown. Just before the first lockdown I met an agent who was fantastic and immediately realized that she was the person that was going to help me. Then we went into lockdown end of March, just as I was submitting a book proposal for her. When you write a nonfiction book, and mine is classed as nonfiction because it's memoir, you have to write a proposal, which is a breakdown of the chapters and what the book's about. And you would do that for any non-fiction book, whether it was a history book or a cooking book or a memoir.
So I wrote that during the beginning of the first lockdown and then she sent it out to various publishers. And within a couple of weeks we had three or four publishers who were interested and there was a bit of back and forth, but she did her thing of playing them off each other and trying to get the best deal.
Yes, agenting. I didn't meet anybody till September of last year, so six, seven, eight months or so, where I literally just had an occasional phone call with my editor and lots and lots of emails. And it almost didn't really feel real because there was no schmoozy meetings or lunches out or anything like that.
It was all very much head down doing the edits and homeschooling and dealing with all the challenges that we all faced last year. So when I actually got to meet my editor, when I actually got a sort of proof copy of the book in my hand, it was the most amazing feeling because it made it properly real at that point.
Kristin : It feels like I don't know, you're one of those annoying people that can come out of lockdown and be like, Oh I wrote my first book in lockdown,
Kate: I'm sure it sounds like that, but I wrote, the book took years to write on and off and in between I've had three children, so there's been a lot of nappy changing and sleepless nights along the way as well. Yeah, no, I only really did the editing part during lockdown, but I'm sure it sounds like that come out of lockdown with my book, but, the actual reality was it was years in the making the book and again, a back and forth battle with my confidence at every stage with that, um not thinking it was any good and not believing in it.
And then going back to it and then not believing in it and then going back to it and at the end, as I said, just being so annoyed with myself that I hadn't finished it and done it. And yeah. So finally got it done. And yeah, it's been just the most amazing thing. And they've asked me to write a fiction book, so that's what I'm working on next.
Kristin : That's really exciting. uh, what's
Kristin : book going to be about?
Kate: Well, It's a bit, it's a bit, I think the, I can't really say it in a minute. It's a bit up in the air, but it's yeah it's, it feels like a real process, a real journey. I've gone from the sort of copywriting and emails to journalism to writing a nonfiction book, and now as you're going to fiction, it feels like a sort of a step, each little step towards actually possibly really what I want to do which is to write.
And that's been such a long process to get here. And I don't regret a minute of doing the business or anything else. And I think you only really find your feet at a certain point and come to realize what you're good at, but what you enjoy. And I think particularly as a woman, if you have children as well, there's so many breaks in your career and in your life and all the other things that life throws at you, it does take time to really figure out what you want to do and where you want to go and what you enjoy doing. That's a big thing. I don't think that happens until you're, a bit older, not well for some people anyway, I'd say.
Kristin : We were talking before we started recording about, this kind of need to, once you have something like a university degree or whatever kind of training you choose to do, but how difficult it is to say, actually I want to do something else because you feel this , almost sense of duty.
Or I spent time, I spent money. I have to continue on this path. It does take awhile I think if you've changed your mind or if you find you're good at something else,
I don't want to use the word brave, but there is A courage to.
Kate: A hundred percent. I have lots of friends who started done one job and stuck at it. And they've really moved within that industry to different companies, but they've been on the same path and that's brilliant and they still love what they do. But I think it should be just as normal to explore and to take a side step and take a backward step and to, enjoy doing different things because we evolve as people.
When it's only normal, then that you're going to evolve in your professional life. I had a very traditional upbringing and. The steps that I think I was expected to take were school, university, job, marriage, kids, and, I've done those things, probably not in the right, the order that some people have done that.
For me, I just never felt there was one kind one exact path, and I knew that I'd be trying different things until I felt like I'd find something that I enjoy doing, and I might do something different again, I don't know, but I think that's okay. And, we should all embrace that.
Kristin : Absolutely. Obviously I agree with that, considering. I gave you a hard time too, about the lockdown book, which I, of course I know is not the truth, of but what I loved was I was reading that Ruth Hogan who is known for her own very uplifting novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, called the book, 'an absolutely glorious romp of a book'.
And I do think just coming out of, the past year and a half at this point that we've had something described as a glorious romp just sounds like what we all really need.
Kate: it's a really lighthearted book. And I think it's very warm and people that have read it have very kindly said that they feel uplifted by it. And it's filled with hope. I think if you're a dog lover it's particularly particularly pleasing to read because there's so many different doggy characters in there.
But also I think if you're not, particularly into dogs the human side of it is I think that sort of fly on the wall and then the way you get a chance to peek into other people's lives is always quite interesting. Being a dog walker, you do have this such a privileged position where you're going into these people's houses and you become a sort of trusted me member of their household really.
And this sort of insight into other people's lives, I think, as a writer or want to be writer, or anybody that has an interest in human nature just finds that so appealing. And from day one, I thought this is, I've got to write this down. This is. This is going to be so interesting.
I think the book only really came to life when I fitted my own story in with that of the clients. My own, I don't really like the word journey, but that sort of passage from coming into your adulthood and finding your feet and realizing who you are as a person and what it means to be an adult and a grownup, which I think is something that a lot of us struggled with.
What are the markers of adulthood, does it mean that you have five saucepans and you've got an ironing board? I would constantly measure myself against these people that I would see their houses and some of them were immaculate and some of them were messy and I'd always think, gosh, why don't I have that in my life?
And I sort of things that we were so bad at judging ourselves against other people and comparing ourselves. And I think, becoming an a 'grown-up' in inverted commas is is such an interesting thing. Isn't it? The way that we... we don't really ever see ourselves in that way. I don't think. So creating, starting my own family and getting married and having children and finding feeling like I'd found my sort of feet in the world. That's a lot of the book as well. And I think anybody can relate to that cause we all have to go through it.
Kristin : Yeah, definitely the grownup thing. I always think. Still sometimes I think, when am I going to feel like a grownup? And I don't know. I don't know. Does it take your own business, does it take kids or does it take family tragedy? I don't know. I haven't decided what that marker is yet, but I think I probably will go to my grave, even if I live to be a hundred with certain elements of my life. Not realizing that I became a quote unquote, 'grownup'.
Kate: Yeah. I think we, yeah, I think we all, we take a step back sometimes in our lives. Don't we and think. Oh, my God, what we have, I have three children and two dogs, and I'm doing this, that's properly grown up and we don't really feel that way inside. I feel reassured when I speak to other people and say they feel the same because for a long time it was just me.
But actually think,
Kristin : just you.
Kate: I think a lot of people feel that way and think, Oh my goodness, what am I doing? Yeah. It's it's a funny, old thing. Isn't it? I don't think when we, 60, 70, 80, I don't think we'll ever probably feel like we're grown ups, but
Kristin : yeah,
that's okay. I don't ever want to be too grown up. I also, just sometimes want to do things that, that aren't properly grown up and not feel guilty at all.
Kristin : I wanted to mention too, in this uplifting thing is your website because I've been on your website, KateMcDougallwrites.com.
I'll put it in the show notes, but it talk about uplifting. It's you have an interest in photography. There's beautiful photographs. There's stuff about your writing. There's pictures of your kids. I feel like that your website made me so happy.
Kate: Oh, that's so kind of you, I really should pay more attention to my website. Yeah, I think it's funny that we're talking about the creative itch thing. I I think photography is one thing that I do as another creative outlet. I just love taking pictures and I think in another way that writing is a skill.
I think just learning how to frame a picture and getting the light and stuff. I just love doing it. And sometimes I see something I'm like, I've got to take a picture of that. And I think that's just I don't believe if you're a creative person, you have one outlet for that. I think probably if you like the arts and you're creative, then lots of things appeal to you.
And photography is something I've really loved and wish I did more of. When I wasn't writing as much, I took more pictures, I think, cause it was that need to have an outlet, a creative outlet. I haven't taken as many pictures recently, but my kids will probably say differently. I'm always saying, wait, hold that, that take a picture of it.
Yeah, I do really love taking pictures and yeah, I'm sure we'll do more of that in the future.
Kristin : And there's just lots of beautiful pictures of things like dogs and countryside and yeah. It's
Kate: It's very, we live in a really beautiful part of the world. And I think when you're out and about walking dogs, or even if you're not walking dogs just walking yourself, seeing the sort of changing of the seasons, particularly this last year I really just love it. I love. Noticing the changes that go on in the world outside, and we have a little bird feed.
I'm just fascinated by the little birds that come in and say hi to us in the morning. And yeah, I think being out in the countryside and being in nature has been just such a comforting thing this last year. And I've never, for one moment felt I felt so grateful to be where we live and so appreciative and so aware of how lucky we are to be surrounded by fields and nature, because it's been so important.
Kristin : So as a woman of words of course you brought me a quote, cause that's my thing. But of all the words in the world, what was your quote?
Kate: It is it's short and snappy. It is 'everything is copy', which is Nora Ephron. She's one of my favorite writers. A lot of people might only know her from her films, which are When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail. She's a brilliant writer. Very funny lady. Everything is copy for a writer that says everything really you're meant to observe the world around you and absorb it all I think, and then digest that.
And hopefully that will come out in the, in what you're writing. But I think in a larger sense, so much of my business when it was going badly, I learned from, and I think you can take that quote as learning from your mistakes and learning from things that don't go so well can be so useful going forward.
I only really perfected how to run a business after. I would say perfected probably got onto page one after a number of years, mainly from the mistake, from the mistakes I made. So many mistakes. I learned as I went, from the basic things, like having insurance, which I didn't have to start for the first couple of months.
It's just school boy errors like that to how to deal with clients and navigate sort of sensitive situations. Really the way you get good at something is by making mistakes. And so I like to think of everything is copy as meaning that as well, as obviously on a more literal sense, you can use all of the things around you for your writing and to keep your eyes open and observe all the time.
Kristin : So in all these stories and all this copy that was coming from the dog-walking service , are there things in the book that you had to say, names have been changed for the protection of the identity?
I'm getting emphatic head nod from that.
Kate: Yeah, I changed all the names. There's a character in the book called The Principle. And when I took on this client who is ultra famous I, he was only ever referred to as the principal in various sort of non-disclosure documents, I was sent and made to sign. So I always just referred to him as the principle because I just thought it was such a silly silly name and, he's a human being. Why can't we just call him by his name? But whenever he's was referred to me, he was called the principle. So he's called the principle in the book. And yes, now I've changed all the names. I don't think the people in the book, some of them were wouldn't want their real names out there because some of their behaviours are not very flattering.
Kristin : That's what I was thinking. There must be things that were just cringy.
Kate: really I think I think people get very emotional about their dogs and I understand that. I've got two dogs myself, but I think possibly people's expectations about what our service is sometime get a little skewed. I think w I seem to find that as the business went on, people became more and more entitled and expected certain things and reality. It's just, you're just a dog walker. Some of the requests that we have fairly bonkers. We were used to giving Evian to dogs and cutting up their food with knife and forks and, drying them with hair dryers and reading the bedtime stories and all of that's that was all became quite normal.
A lot of people will go 'what?!' to that, but that those were standard requests.
Um, yeah. Yeah. I, we got used to use to the clients that were, because there were so many of them, their dogs were their children in many respects. And I respected that 100% while taking notes and thinking that's interesting.
I must remember that for the book. Yes. I think some of the more complicated situations we got in with the customers, when you became certainly more involved in their private lives, inadvertently that's when things became a bit tricky. I had a couple who split up. And had a sort of very complex sharing arrangement with their dog.
And as the dog walker, you become slightly more involved in their private life than you possibly should be. That's all in the book. Perhaps I had to spy for one of them on the other one and things like that. So, Yeah. And then there was one, yeah, there was one client who got us involved with her mother-in-law who was in a care home and we had to go and pick up prescriptions and expensive bottles of champagne to take to her and stuff.
It was a real eye-opener in, in many respects. But yeah, obviously very good copy for the book.
Kristin : It all sounds very intriguing to me, but I'm going to tell listeners if they want to know more, they have to buy your book.
So London's No.1Dog Walking Agency.
Kate: Yes, please do. I think for dog lovers, obviously it's going to be something going to really enjoy reading, but as I said, yeah, I think there's just a lot of fascinating human stories in there too. And it's a real love letter to London, I think, as a city that I dearly love and miss very much.
It's a fantastic place to live and just full of brilliant people and brilliant parks. I think London's just got the best parks in the world. And I learned so much just walking through all those different parts, trying to run this business and wondering what I was doing.
Kristin : This just occurred to me as we were talking about Nora Ephron and we were talking about you were describing this love letter to London. It's so ripe for a film who would play you, who would be your dream casting
Kate: Oh my God. I don't know. It has been optioned for telly actually. but that's,
But it's very early days with that. I'm not, it's not technically I'm not actually allowed to say who or what's happening very early days, but very exciting. They've got some brilliant ideas for it, so hopefully we'll see it on screen. I don't know. I'm a big Fleabag fan. So Phoebe Waller-Bridge would probably be my my ideal casting I think.
Kristin : And I don't know how tall she is, but she comes off as tall. So she could probably make some comic use of some height things as well.
And she's just,
Kristin : know for sure.
Kate: I think she might be, I think she's just got that slightly Oh, what am I doing face? She, she does great um, her brilliant expressions to the camera. I related to that character a lot, so yeah, I'd I think she's fantastic. I think she'd be my number one choice.
Kristin : All right. With that note,uh...Phoebe Waller-Bridge? If you're listening, get on this right away and yes, I think it would be amazing. You thought Fleabag was big? Wait until you're a dog walker.
Kate: Fingers crossed. I think it would be I think it would be great to see on screen yeah. I'll keep you posted.
Kristin : Definitely. And I look forward to your fiction book when that comes out
Kate: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, I hope maybe next year, end of next year, beginning of the year after year, I've got to write it first,
Kristin : Yes. And hopefully you won't have any lockdowns to keep you focused.
Kate: no, it's a just the homeschooling I could definitely do without that
that cropping up again,
It's I'm so excited to get stuck into it.
Yeah. I'll let you know when it comes out.
Kristin : Perfect. Thank you. so much, Kate, for joining me, was so really fun chatting with you.
Kate: Kristin. Thank you. You too. Thank you.
#podcast #womenover35 #thesecondchapter #thesecondchapterpodcast #katemacdougall #londonsno1dogwalkingagency #writer